Megan Brooks

June 16, 2017

BOSTON — Keeping a regular sleep schedule is just as important as getting enough sleep, hints a study in college students.

The results were presented here at SLEEP 2017: 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

"Irregular sleep-wake schedules are common in our modern society. We found that week-long irregular sleep schedules are significantly associated with lower self-reported morning and evening happiness, healthiness, and calmness during the week even after controlling for weekly average sleep duration," lead author, Akane Sano, PhD, research scientist in the Media Lab Affective Computing Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, noted in a conference statement.

She presented preliminary findings from the SNAPSHOT study, an ongoing collaborative research project between the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital and MIT Media Lab Affective Computing Group.

The SNAPSHOT study is measuring sleep, networks, affect, performance, stress, and health by using objective techniques.

Dr Sano reported on 204 college students, aged 18 to 25 years (132 male), who participated in a 30-day field study. Sleep timing and duration were monitored by using actigraphy, along with daily morning and evening online diaries, which were also used to collect self-reports of well-being (happiness, healthiness, and calmness) using a visual analog scale.

The researchers calculated the sleep regularity index weekly as the likelihood of being awake or asleep across all time-points 24-hours apart. They used generalized estimating equations that controlled for weekly average sleep duration to examine how sleep regularity relates with self-reported well-being.

Results showed that higher sleep regularity was statistically significantly related to higher morning and evening happiness, healthiness, and calmness (P < .01) during the week. On the first day following the week, these results held (P < .01) for all but morning healthiness.

In addition, the study found that transitioning from an irregular weekly sleep pattern to a regular pattern was also associated with improved well-being.

Message Clear

Commenting on the study for Medscape Medical News, Shalini Paruthi, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), said the message of this study is clear: "Not only is it important to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night for optimum health in adults, but it's really important to get it regularly."

And that's not always easy, particularly in young people, added AASM spokesperson Nitun Verma, MD. 

"The common change of schedule in younger people is staying up late on the weekend and having difficulty waking early Monday morning. This is similar to experiencing jet lag," Dr Verman said. "Also, what's really important is how to use technology to help young people stick to a consistent schedule."

The SNAPSHOT study is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Harvard Catalyst, Samsung Electronics, and MIT Media Lab consortium. Dr Sano, Dr Paruthi, and Dr Verma have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

SLEEP 2017: 31st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Abstract 0182. Presented June 5, 2017.

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